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How much to implement GTD

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  • How much to implement GTD

    I would like to know how much did it take for you to implement GTD and master it?
    Thanks for your answers.

  • #2
    Originally posted by ver_tips View Post
    I would like to know how much did it take for you to implement GTD and master it?
    Thanks for your answers.
    First, let me say that I don't think I've mastered GTD. But I do feel like I have a pretty decent handle on it -- some days/weeks are better than others, but I've gotten to the point where it is pretty easy to get back on the wagon after I fall off; and I'm falling off less often than I used to.

    That said, I think it only took a few months to get things to point where I felt like I had some control.

    The first month or so was total chaos. Huge, out of control lists that had the basic structure of GTD (projects, contexts, agendas, etc); but I was still not "clear" on a lot of things on those lists. Most of my projects did not have clearly defined outcomes, and I was not actually truly committed to many of them. A large portion of my next actions were actually mini-projects.

    By the second month, I think I started to really understand the value of defining successful outcomes. It became easier to decide on the next action. I was also starting to get better at identifying faux next actions.

    By month three, I was ready to abandon GTD. I had literally hundreds of active projects; many of my next actions had little to no relationship to those active projects, and if they did, I couldn't make the connection; and if I browsed through my project list, I had not idea if I actually had a next action recorded anywhere. I was also falling into the habit of NOT THINKING about the stuff on my lists -- I was just DOING. The problem with that, is that sometimes you need to switch contexts, and if you aren't cognizant of the surrounding landscape, you might miss that -- that is exactly what happened to me, and I nearly forgot to do something I had promised my wife simply because I never found myself in that context.

    It was about this time that I discovered the value of 3 things: (1) the weekly review; (2) the daily mini-review, and (3) the someday/maybe list.

    I started doing reviews as often as every day: just a quick scan over all my projects and context lists -- this helped me know whether there were any contexts I had to force myself into. That solved the "oops" problems of the previous month.

    I forced myself to do a thorough weekly review. This, in combination with the daily mini-review, helped me start to make the connections between my projects and my next actions more intuitively, and I started to lose the need to explicitly tie them together on my lists.

    I moved a whole mess of projects into someday/maybe. This significantly reduced the amount of time spent in the weekly review, and even further made the connection between project and next action easier to keep instinctively.

    Of course, during this time, and for the next several months, I spent an inordinate amount of time playing with tools: paper systems, Thinking Rock, My Lifre Organized, GTD on Rails, vanilla pocket pc, custom pocket pc software, a different kind of paper system, ohmygod THE TOOLS!!!

    After about 8 or 9 months, I guess, I finally came to the conclusion that I just needed to focus on actually getting things done and worry less about how it was all managed. It was around this time that I think I hit a stride, and it has been pretty simple from there.

    I still have my days, though, when I think, "forget this. I'll just wing it. It worked fine for how many years before I found GTD." Then I realize just how poorly the "winging it" approach worked for me, and I go do a weekly review.

    Hope something here helps.


    • #3
      I think that the amount of time and effort to master GTD depends on a number of factors, but I would estimate that it takes about a month of disciplined effort to get off the ground, and once it's off the ground about two years to reach an expert level (that's also David's estimate on how long it takes to REALLY get it for yourself). Don't let that discourage you. Enjoy the ride and the growth that comes with it.

      One critical factor in terms of how fast you'll learn it is the method used to learn it. I had the privilege of viewing a videotaped seminar that David Allen gave at our company a number of years ago. I think had a much easier time learning GTD than someone who only read the book. David answered audience questions (similar to mine) in the seminar, but a person reading the book has to seek answers elsewhere.

      Like any self-improvement program, the most difficult part is setting up the habits and making behavior changes. Even if you do this well, your mind might not want to give up the job of remembering your commitments at first. It took my mind a month to let go and trust my new system. Over the next 2 1/2 years I've asked lots of questions on this board, adjusted my system as needed, and got faster and better at the overall workflow process. I've feel that I've finally reached expert level, and I can tell you firsthand that the journey is well worth it.

      Good luck.


      • #4
        How long does it take a Buddhist to master Buddhism? Or a martial artist to master kung fu? Or a cook to master cooking?

        (Not that GTD is a religion.)

        I haven't mastered GTD, though it took me about two years before all the habits became, um, habitual.


        • #5
          Originally posted by ver_tips View Post
          I would like to know how much did it take for you to implement GTD and master it?
          Thanks for your answers.
          I have a busy, complicated life, and my share of personal imperfections. I understood GTD immediately, and it helped immediately. Getting GTD to work consistently has taken several years, but the improvements in my life over that period have been cumulative.


          • #6
            Upon reflection of my earlier comments, and looking at the replies from other posters here, I should clarify that my comments were not meant to convey that getting started with GTD was a struggle. I fear my initial post may have been far too focused on the negatives...

            On the positive side, the core concepts of GTD were easy to grasp right away:

            "Oh, I should decide the very next thing I need to do, and then write THAT down." This was something I had been doing wrong. My To-do list had been full of projects and goals; not physically do-able next actions. As a result, I lacked clarity on a lot of those things.

            I was a chronic procrastinator. As it turns out, most of my procrastination was due in large part to me visualizing the whole project from beginning to end, all the possible divergent paths the project could take, all the possible outcomes of each of those paths, and only a small number of those paths actually lead to success. This was a source of "overwhelm", and the GTD approach of "just focus on the very next thing you need to do" was a life-saver.

            The concept of keeping next action lists segregated by context was an immediate eye-opener for me. So simple, so intuitively correct, but it had never occurred to me before.

            Finally, I think just the simple process of learning GTD, figuring out the best way for me to deal with my stuff, was critical. Despite all the time "wasted" playing with different tools, there was still some measurable value: before I got into GTD, I had never really THOUGHT about how I go about keeping track of and deciding what I am going to work on. I, and I think a good majority of people who get into GTD, spent a ton of time really thinking about how best to organize my lists and track my activities. I can only surmise that the reason I spent so many hours thinking about these things is because I had never spent the time thinking about them before; and it turns out to be an incredibly important part of getting a handle on your work.

            In closing, I want to apologize if I gave you the impression that doing GTD is hard. It really isn't. And, in fact, it is actully fun in an OCD kind of way. It just takes a little time to master some of the concepts in a way that is best for you.


            • #7
              Longer than 2 minutes


              • #8
                Continual process

                Getting good at GTD is a continual process. I've read the book 3 times in the last couple of years and got new things out of it every time.

                Note that I got things out of it every time. That means it HELPED, right from the first day I started. From there it gets better & better.

                -- Sarah


                • #9
                  Remember that GTD is neither the destination nor the journey. It's not even a roadmap, though it may be part of the means for finding one.

                  It's just a tool to help you manage the distractions along the way.

                  Mastering GTD is not important. What's important is eliminating the obstacles to mastery of your chosen path.



                  • #10
                    GTD progressions

                    David describes what black belt means here:

                    I believe the general thinking is that it takes about two to three years to get to black belt with this methodology. However Wikipedia describes black belt as follows:

                    'The shodan black belt is not the end of training but rather as a beginning to advanced learning: the individual now "knows how to walk" and may thus begin the "journey".'

                    So I suppose this means what do you mean by master GTD? GTD is like an onion (or a parfait). There are a lot of layers.

                    In addition to David's list of belt descriptions there is probably at least one additional belt:

                    Black Belt - 3rd Degree: Your next actions and projects are in alignment with your higher altitudes in support of your life mission.